Thursday, February 3, 2011

Squeeze Me

I bought my first fine art photograph in 1976 for $75, a princely sum at the time, so much so, I paid for it in three installments. The image, by photographer Volker Seding, is a still life of a china water pitcher, two lemons, and a half-full water glass artfully arranged on a linen tablecloth. 

The photo's exceptionality comes from Seding's delicate hand-painting of the lemons in a rich yellow, and the water pitcher in a pastel blue, layered onto a black and white photograph. The lemons initially drew me in.  

I am not alone in my fondness for lemons. They often appear in Dutch Old Masters paintings as a symbol of life, sweet in appearance but bitter to taste. In the Court of Louis XIV, the women of Versailles used lemons as we use lipstick, biting into them to make their lips red. 

But let's forget the lipstick and symbolic underbelly of the lemon. They were made to grace food, and that's where they shine (other than in my photograph), magically transforming food from the acceptable to sublime.

Preserved lemons are a staple condiment in North African cuisine, and halved lemons are omnipresent in Greece alongside fried, broiled, or poached fish, calamari, mussels, and grilled lamb, chicken, and kebabs. 

But the fruit comes into its true glory in lemon meringue pies,  curd and the French Tarte au Citron with its tangy filling and tender buttery crust. However, none are as delicious as the first and only cake made by my husband one year on my birthday in the form of a dense, moist lemon pound cake drizzled with lemon syrup.

Lemons are often on my mind, but my thoughts turned to them today because I just learned of photographer Volker Seding's recent death. 

Perhaps it's an odd way to pay tribute to an artist, but I'm doing so with a recipe for a delicious Greek lemon soup (thanks Oprah) and kindly thoughts.

Avgolemono Soup
  • 1 quart chicken broth , preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup orzo or long grain rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper , to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill or parsley
In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add orzo; cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until orzo is al dente. (If using rice, add another cup of chicken broth. Simmer according to package directions, or until grains are tender.) Do not drain; set aside.

In a bowl, beat eggs until thick. Whisk in lemon juice and zest. Gradually add 1/2 cup hot broth from saucepan, whisking constantly. Add 2 more 1/2 cups of broth, whisking after each addition.

Pour mixture back into saucepan and reheat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until egg cooks and soup slightly thickens. Do not boil, or eggs will curdle. Add salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle with dill or parsley. Serve hot or cold.


  1. Your best piece yet!!! They're just getting better and better. Your style/delivery is so very warm and folksy and down-to-earth, yet erudite and highly informative. What an amusing and entertaining way to learn - about your subject and about you.

    (But what's the Oprah reference?)

  2. Linda, when you're given lemons as a muse, you make lemonaid! And soup, and art history, make-up substitues and cryptic references to Oprah that will bring us all back to today's posting for the answer. Delightful and always interesting, just like the 'brick and mortar' version of yourself.